Print this page Notes: The 2002 Ford Explorer is hands-down our worst vehicle on record. "Avoid like the plague" is putting it lightly.

The 2002-2005 Explorer has a very well-established record of expensive transmission failure at under 100k miles. The Explorer has an enclosed transmission which is typically replaced with a rebuilt transmission at a cost of almost $3,000.

Another common problem for the 2002-2003 Explorer is wheel bearing failure at around 90k miles, with a typical repair bill of $500 to $1000 depending on how many wheel bearings failed.

Adding insult to injury, the 2002-2005 Explorer also has a massive problem with the rear panel cracking. While it's a minor annoyance compared to transmission failure, ironically the crack usually goes right through the Ford logo.


fairly significant
Typical Repair Cost:
Average Mileage:
79,300 miles
Total Complaints:
622 complaints

Most Common Solutions:

  1. Ford should pay for it (396 reports)
  2. not sure (86 reports)
  3. paid to have rear panel replaced (48 reports)
  4. file complaint with NHTSA to get a recall issued (26 reports)
  5. start a class action suit and get damages reimbursed (17 reports)
  6. dealership replaced the entire panel (10 reports)
2002 Ford Explorer body / paint problems

body / paint problem

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2002 Ford Explorer Owner Comments (Page 1 of 32)

problem #622

Aug 082017

Explorer Eddie Bauer V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 197,000 miles


My second Explorer with this problem. Love both, but this rear panel issue has been going on for 20 years; My first Explorer was a 1994, and the crack was similar. On my newer model (2002), the cracks are worse and even the plate cover is about to fall off. Poor engineering from Ford knowing the force needed to lift the tail gate. A sturdy handle dedicated for this action should have been introduced into later models.

- jrsares, Jacksonville Beach, US

problem #621

Oct 252014

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 110,000 miles

I walked back to my vehicle one day about 2 years ago to notice a crack on my rear hatch panel below the rear glass. The crack was close to the Ford emblem. When I called to advise my fiance' about the issue, he stated "they all do that". I called Ford and got NO help from them whatsoever. I also called a local dealership, no special pricing as some reviewers had mentioned online (which I really didn't expect, it's not the dealerships issue, its FORD'S issue). After reading about the possibilities of further issues, I have decided to cough up the $400 it is costing me to get the panel, painting and installation. I have made 2 trips to a local Ford dealership in search of purchasing another Explorer, but considering the way they did not own up to the fault of their product on this issue, we have started looking at Chevrolet. Really disappointed with Ford.

- Donna M., Hampton, VA, US

problem #620

Dec 082016

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 151,696 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

This will affect safety in the event of an accident for myself and my Family.

This issue will only get worse. Water, Salt and other elements will cause more degradation.

This drops the resale value of my Vehicle.

- Randy Strelcheck S., Kingsford, MI, US

problem #619

Jan 012007

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles


There should be a universal fix for the problem not a temporary assist program with a 2006-2007 window.

- John C., Macon, GA, US

problem #618

Oct 012008

Explorer Limited V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 98,000 miles

The entire rear panel below the window is cracked or cracking, including the portion of the panel that you have to squeeze to open the rear hatch. Virtually every Explorer we have seen has this problem.

- Kevin M., Raleigh, NC, US

problem #617

Jun 152010

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 75,000 miles

Too common of a problem to not be a manufacturer defect. Ford needs to acknowledge the design flaw and fix it.

- J I., Duluth, GA, US

problem #616

Sep 012015

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 74,000 miles


click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window

My firs problem was when the vehicle was 2 years old the front hub assembly was replaced It cost me around $700 dollars. Not covered by my extended warranty.

Also had to replaced the fuel pump with only 30,000 miles another unnecessary expense MY 1989 Toyota Corolla still has the original fuel pump.

replaced the lift supports hood and rear door like 3 times with original parts from the dealer,

I gave up on fixing the 3rd seat ac, the actuators were replaced twice and still don't work they seem to work for 2 couple of years only.

Now the lift gate has a lot of cracks, out of curiosity where ever i go and see an explorer like mine I see they all have that problem some have vertical cracks and some have horizontal cracks so far I haven't been able to see one with a good rear panel. except one that had a primer one not matching the original paint.

- Victor G., Culver City, CA, US

problem #615

Apr 102012

Explorer LX 3.2L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 86,000 miles

This vertical crack on the tail gate panel has occurred twice. Once the dealer repaired it and it cost me $200.00 and it broke one year later. I had it repaired again. This time the tail gate repair cost me $250.00. The only reason I still own the truck because I paid it off. I am pondering trading it in for another reliable truck with far less problems.

- Ray C., Jurupa Valley, CA, US

problem #614

Feb 102016

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 215,846 miles

We had a number of problems when we bought our 02 Explorer with 19000 miles on it. We purchased the extended warranty and glad we did. After a number of trips to the dealership where we bought it, our issues where fixed. Now this, if Ford don't fix it, I'll be going with another brand. I've been buying Ford's all my life, I guess it's time for a change.

- Chuck F., Billings, MO, US

problem #613

Feb 142016

Explorer XLS V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 140,000 miles

click to see larger images

cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window cracked panel below the rear window

Got a car wash earlier in the day... Car was kept overnight in my garage... bitter cold temperatures that night (-2 degrees)... next day noticed the crack.. couldn't believe it!

Not covered under my comprehensive insurance coverage... no recall with Ford (that I'm aware of)...was told today (2/16/16) by auto body shop owner & Insurance claims adjuster that it was a defect!!!

Now I'm stuck with a car with body damage on it... I'm not going to pay out of pocket to get this fixed... it will cost too much money!

- Michele D., Valley Cottage, NY, US

problem #612

Jan 062016

Explorer XLT 3.2L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 87,126 miles


We bought this 2002 Explorer new for vacation long haul driving in the hope of comfort and reliability. It has evolved in the biggest piece of poor engineering, aggravation, and in general disappointment of any car or truck that I have ever owned.

This compliant of the tailgate crack is only the latest of the list of unrelenting defects that started on day one and never subsided to this day. Ford was consist at every turn, they danced around every issue or used the shell game approach just to get you out of service department until the warranty was out all the while never fixing anything and charging you for not doing it.

I am not talking about petty little nit picking things, I am talking hazardous issues with the motor, transmission, brakes, lights, doors, windows, defrosting system and God only knows how many electronic issues because I'm certain that FMC didn't keep track of them. The money spent on the extended warranty should have been spent on toilet paper for it would served me better in the end!!!

In the end we call corporate countless times on countless issues to no avail, tried to lemon law the piece of junk and that proved fruitless, and we still have it sitting in the garage because it has a resale value of next to nothing. The final side note on it is that this car sat in a heated garage its whole live and after ten years of ownership it had less than 30,000 miles and most of those were back and forth to the service department, but the best of all is along the way I tried to trade it in on a new truck and they didn't want it. Seriously!!!!!

- Danny B., Coshocton, OH, US

problem #611

Feb 052012

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 80,000 miles

This seems to be just a minor problem compared with the rest of the things wrong with this model year. I am really not sure what Ford were thinking in 2002. I don't like fords anyway but this model year takes the cake.

- crimson, Findlay, OH, US

problem #610

Nov 022009

Explorer XLT 4.0L V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 161,000 miles

The plastic panel under rear lift-gate window is cracked...been this way since I purchased the vehicle. When I go through a carwash part of it comes off. Tried glue to repair but overtime it comes off again.

- danniiiboy, High Point, NC, US

problem #609

Feb 012014

Explorer Limited 4.6L V8

  • Automatic transmission
  • 135,000 miles

This could lead to bigger issues.The window wiper could stop working or the back windshield could crack.

- Melessa W., Columbus, OH, US

problem #608

Jul 012011

Explorer ES V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 165,000 miles

- Jim W., Oneida, KY, US

problem #607

Jun 012004

Explorer XLT 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 30,000 miles

We thought someone had backed into our vehicle. There was a truck parked behind us at the store with a ladder hanging out the back & we thought he must have backed into it & left. We had it fix because it wasn't that much above the deductible. About 6-8 months later the same crack was there again. After checking with other owners & watching the passing vehicles a pattern formed - DUH!!! Contacted several dealers but "it's not our problem". Ford says its not their problem, dealers say its not their problem! Guess owners are screwed!

Unfortunately, the Explorer is NOT the only victim to this design flaw; the Expedition is also a victim. The wife refuses to part with the vehicle and Ford doesn't want to fix the problem. After almost 4000 complaints just on the Explorer you would think Ford would realize they have a problem.....oh excuse me - how silly of me to actually think a car company would actually do "the right thing" by their customers without a court order. Until a judge from our overpaid court officials gets fed up with this problem, I guess us little-people are screwed AGAIN!

- Jim C., Cumming, GA, US

problem #606

Oct 162013

Explorer XLS 4.0L

  • Automatic transmission
  • 88,034 miles

This is soooo bad a company, should stand behind its engineering dept. and not keep hiding behind the panels of excuses. Man up ford, yes I spelled it with a small f because use there is a large problem. When we drive around in a vehicle you like, everything behind that company should be backed up by its name. Come on ford, stand behind your product please. Thank you

- Adam B., Maplewood, US

problem #605

Apr 182015

Explorer LImited

  • Automatic transmission
  • 127,000 miles

Th rear window shuttered into 100 pieces and Cracked Rear Panel. Need help, advise, if the FORD is reliable for repairs?

- ewalt, Sherman Oaks, CA, US

problem #604

Jul 142014

Explorer XLT

  • Manual transmission
  • 223,000 miles

It is cracked and I've noticed another crack starting. I would like Ford to fix it.

- Jackie S., Stafford, TX, US

problem #603

Sep 012006

Explorer XLT V6

  • Automatic transmission
  • 38,000 miles

Ford should pay for it, since it was a body problem and it has happened to so many people. I called Ford about it and they told me they didn't have a plan or reimbursement in place. This is something that appeared out of nowhere!

- vivians, Westfield, MA, US

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